A late summer bouquet
What a year. 2020 was a challenging, difficult and scary year for everyone and I think we are all glad to see it in the rearview mirror. However, for our little farm we were fortunate thanks to a wonderful group of loyal customers. Thank you to all of you--you know who you are! You made it work and we are so grateful. And thank you, too, to my wonderful family who put in a huge amount of work during the unexpected months at home to expand our growing capacity which has gotten us super ready for 2021. This farm would never work without all of you. And we have exciting plans for this year.
Yellow zinnia reaching for the sky
Although last summer was extraordinarily hot and dry on our side of the mountains (I know this wasn’t true for those in towards Baltimore and DC), we had a wonderful growing season due to the irrigation system we laid out in the spring. Drip irrigation is a water-saving form of irrigation that kept our flowers well watered during even the hottest days. We lay it out under weed cloth, then plant our seeds or small plants in holes in the cloth. This makes it possible to manage a relatively large area with less labor and produces flowers that are not crowded out by weeds and which still get enough moisture.
Burning holes in place (we added the drip tape after we did this—yes, out of order, but sometimes that’s just the way it works out.)
Claire picking celosia standing just where she was in the previous picture.
Plume type celosia in the middle
‘Queen Lime Red’ Zinnias
New growing bed in full bloom
The pictures above are the main growing bed which is next to our large high tunnel. This new bed was incredibly productive in its first year. We tried out quite a few zinnias that did not actually work out as cut flowers (I'm looking at you 'Zinderella' and 'Cupcake' Zinnias!), but we enjoyed looking at them. The two rows of 'Queen Lime Orange' and 'Queen Lime Red' were extremely productive and we cut from them early July through the unusually early frost. Unfortunately the position of this new bed makes it frost susceptible and when we had an extremely early frost on September 20 we lost quite a few of our most productive plants. The sunflowers were fine, but all outside zinnias were gone. Overall this shortened our bouquet selling season by about 3-4 weeks. The weather is still in control of our lives as long as we continue to grow so many of our flowers outside. We had planted just a few zinnias plants in the high tunnel and they were a lifesaver in late September and through October for florist sales.
Cleared for winter—my husband clearing out the new bed. He’s such a good sport.
We are hoping to put in two new high tunnels in the fall. They won't be as big as the first one, but will add to our protected growing area, which extends the season and should allow us to harvest from Feb. to October. Something to look forward to.
Out by the barn we planted a small area of woody perennials which we will be able to cut from in the late winter. They are mostly willows, with a few rows of red-twigged dogwood. I love to get willows from a specialty grower in Vermont with an incredibly wide variety of plants who sends sticks/cuttings in the mail which we then pot and grow into plants. This is how all of our willows were grown. They did so well last year that I will be ordering more in this spring. The plants I started last winter are already able to be cut and will only grow larger over time. We also have some shrubs for summer cutting, but did not get them in the ground last summer. They are in pots waiting to be planted this spring.
Red-twigged dogwood and willow laid out for planting in spring.
‘Mt. Aso’ pink pussy willow. Love it.
Red-twigged dogwood and willow shrubs at the end of their first season.
Unconcerned deer watching me drive by along the driveway
Fencing is important as the deer pressure has gotten intense over the last few years. We have been able to grow with only 4' fencing, even though there is a herd of 30 deer that wanders through daily. They seem unwilling to jump into the beds wherever the ground is covered with black plastic. I wonder if they think it's a hole. Anyway, I do not care as long as they stay out, but I know this may not last. We deer fenced one large area and plan to extend that space for a new planting bed. I'm planning to put the dahlias into the new deer fenced planting bed this year in the hope that we will be able to overwinter them in the ground as many are now beginning to do. Dahlias are a crop that I'm not willing to take any chances with as far as the deer are concerned. We use deerbusters fencing and it has kept out the furry pests that want to eat the plants. Groundhogs are closely tied with deer for our worst furry pests, with rabbits close behind. We've been able to keep deer, rabbits and groundhogs out with the deerbusters fencing.
Mama deer with triplets taking a mid-day rest while I work nearby. It’s hard to see them, but they see us and they have no fear. :) This is their little Eden. If you see the fencing around the trees that is actually for the beavers who have been known to take down 30’ trees and drag them to the creek during the night.
The perennial bed
I almost forgot the perennial bed. It is the backbone of many bouquets and has been a lifesaver. We made a bed along the back fence to grow sweetpeas last year, but then realized that they should be grown in the high tunnel for best blooming. So we planted a long row of symphocarpus that had been waiting in pots for a new home for over a year. In the perennial bed we removed quite a few plants and built five new raised beds for a total of ten along one side. These beds are perfect for small flower crops like Iceland poppies and stock in late winter. Those plants are growing now, under lights, and are just weeks from going out into the new raised beds. We continue to add perennials to the beds which gives us plants to cut, especially during times when we might have gaps between crops that are grown annually, from seed.
The two 100 foot peony rows are now going into their second year and I hope we will see flowers this year, but it may be next year before they really begin to produce. We are adding 100 feet of new perennials alongside the peonies. Baptisia australis, perennial rudbeckia, and we are trying out some new grasses.
Peonies, narcissus and space for new perennials!
Ok, I think that really is everything, but you never know. We may just decide to dig up the front field and put in another new growing bed. It could happen. :)